Chilworth is part of the borough of Test Valley but many residents, particularly at the Bassett end of the village, find Southampton Sports Centre a valuable amenity for themselves and their children. There has been a lot of controversy in recent years about the boating lake, much of it reported on this site. On Wednesday this week its future is to be debated by the City Council and, after reading what Penny Hastings of “Love The Sports Centre” has to say, you may feel moved to at least make your views known.
In January 2016, despite receiving various requests from wildlife groups and members of the public to put the plug back in the lake for the amphibians which come every year to breed there, the Council instead fitted a concrete hood over the plughole, preventing water from gathering and thus effectively turning the lake into a giant drain. The timing of this action seems particularly cruel – it comes across as a deliberate act of wildlife vandalism so as to prevent amphibians breeding there this spring.
The Council/Active Nation’s stated reason for this action? “Due to the risk this poses of potential drowning”. Both the Council and Active Nation were well aware, when they took on the management of the Sports Centre, that the Sports Centre has always had water in the form of the lake and a stream running through the middle of it. It is not now reasonable to cite the risk of drowning as sufficient grounds for closing the lake, especially given the age and shallowness of the lake and the fact there has been NOT ONE INCIDENT of drowning or near-drowning in the last 78 years.
The Council is also, I believe, in breach of their biodiversity policy which requires them to provide suitable habitat for the toads/newts which return every year to breed in the lake.
I have written to the Councillors and the boating lake is now on the agenda at this week’s Full Council meeting (2 pm Wednesday 16/03/16) for discussion by Councillors.
What can you do? E-mail your Councillors before Wednesday’s meeting. You could also write to Cllr Harris (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Cllr Kaur (email@example.com), the Cabinet Member with responsibility for the Sports Centre. You could also come to the meeting too.
I believe the boating lake is an important part of Southampton’s history and should also be part of its future too. But if people don’t opt to keep it, the Council will get rid of it like they did the paddling pool.